...a debut novel as impressive as they come. Tough, wily, dreamlike ... What makes Loedel’s tale so unusual is the fluid way it shifts back and forth between the real and the spectral ... the tangles of action, intention and self-deception he evokes are spellbinding in ways that will hit home in any society where democracy, the rule of law and the very concept of the truth are in peril.
In a commendable display of chutzpah, he has written an Argentine Gothic ... Loedel’s sense of obligation to the real Isabel might explain why Hades, Argentina can feel dutiful, even workmanlike in places as it catalogs the depravities of the regime she fought ... Loedel’s exhaustive account of the junta’s crimes might be a homage to the long chronicle of violence against women in Roberto Bolaño’s novel 2666 as well as to the memory of his half sister and her cause. Alas, it doesn’t always serve the story. Still, it’s fun and sad to follow Tomás and Isabel past the forgotten equestrian statues and dingy cafes of Buenos Aires.
Loedel’s family history, detailed in an afterword, equips him to explore these issues with a fluency that captures the nuances of the question. It is not always 'us versus them.' It is the 'me versus me' that plays out in individuals as they wrestle with what it means to do the right thing ... Loedel draws the line of complicity ever closer to Orilla, asking readers to consider at what point the witness becomes victimizer. Loedel never resorts to caricatures of evil villains. Each of the men who works at ESMA is shown as an individual who counts himself as a good family man ... Loedel continually works to erase the notion that only the evil commit evil acts, which adds to the horror. How do 'ordinary men' become instruments of a repressive state?
Loedel’s prose is clean, tight and engaging, with a rhythm that invites you to keep reading and to see where the story goes and what sense you can make of it. Most interesting, perhaps, are the questions posed: What does it mean to be a hero or to be complicit in a dangerous regime? What choices do we really have? Who are we, and who did we imagine we would become?
Even as the novel invites questions and focuses on language rather than answers, the reader won’t be able to look away. They will bear witness to human choice and compunction, to love and loss, to the fantasy that helps make sense of what is real.
Weaving history and humanity, Loedel crafts a powerful and compelling narrative of a seemingly dystopian world that, unfortunately, was all too real ... in Hades, we find ourselves doubting whether Tomás is among the living or the dead, or in the limbo of his memories; we even find ourselves doubting the veracity of the memories themselves ... Fact and fiction remain intertwined ... Hades, Argentina may be inhabited by ghosts, but it is more like the real world than it seems; it’s a place where the ghosts are human-like in their moral complexity and a place where we, along with Tomás, must come to terms with our complicity.
... marvel of a literary debut ... If Loedel’s plot sounds like high romance, it is … until it isn’t. He deftly navigates the underbelly of an oppressive regime where ghosts of the past mingle with survivors ... He masterfully treads a high wire between grisly crimes and playful magical realism, paying homage not only to the titans of Latin American literature but also to genre-bending tales such as Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad and Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West. The fantastical may be the only way of speaking the unspeakable, of excavating the horrors of the twentieth century ... It’s rare to find an accomplished first novel that moves boldly past coming-of-age conventions and sets the journeys of its characters in relief against a backdrop of grim history. As Loedel suggests, that history haunts us still. He reimagines the platitude 'the personal is political' by injecting enchantment and morality into one man’s entanglements with forces aligned against him. Hades, Argentina announces a major career, and we can expect great work from this gifted writer in the future.
...[a] mesmerizing debut ... The theme of ghosts is bent a few ways—ghosts appear in memories, the crypt, and on the street—and it becomes an apt, poignant descriptor for the people who were disappeared and the agony of their loved ones who had to carry on without knowing what happened to them. Loedel’s unflinching look at human frailty adds a revelatory new chapter to South American Cold War literature.